The grabbing of Senate seats by micro-party candidates with a handful of primary votes and a manipulated preference flow, while other party candidates with hundreds of thousands of votes are bypassed, is a matter demanding reform. The problem is that neither Labor nor the Coalition want to give up their own potential to manipulate the system by hijacking preference flows. Maybe now they will. As leader of the Greens, after the 2010 election I took a simple reform to the Gillard government. It was rejected. Perhaps the Abbott government will take it up. As everyone will remember from voting last Saturday, in the Senate we are required to either put ”1” in the box of the party of our choice above the line, or number all the candidates in the order of our own preference below the line. Fewer than one in 10 voters bother with the second choice. As the number of Senate candidates has grown, the second choice has become less and less attractive. The problem with the easier option of just voting ”1” for a party above the line is that the voter cedes control of her or his flow of preferences to the backroom operators of that party. Across Australia millions of votes cascade to other parties in an order the voters would not select themselves. The law requiring parties to lodge, pre-election, their choice of preference flow has led to the dark art of manipulation of preferences for unwarranted electoral advantage.
Any party that does not join the behind-closed-doors trade in preferences is a mug. It is left to lick its wounds and watch the best manipulators win out as the vote count unfolds after the election. This sordid process should be swept out and the control of preferences given back to the voters.
Reform is simple. Six senators are elected from each state. Voters would be required to number the parties from one to at least six in the order of their own choice above the line. That’s it.
There is an average of three or four candidates for each party so voting one to six means voting for 20 or so candidates, enough to expend the full value of a vote in most cases. Those keen to utilise every last drop of electoral influence could fill in every box above the line, even if there are 50 parties to preference in order.
Below the line voting could be maintained, or abolished if this is needed to minimise confusion for ordinary voters. The corrupting system of parties dictating preferences would come to an end.
Full Article: How to reform Senate voting in one easy step.